NYPD Scandal Muslim Cop Sues New York Over Anti-Muslim E-Mail

"Burning the hate-filled Koran should be viewed as a public service at the least." Hundreds of such e-mails were sent to police by a former CIA agent advising the NYPD on counterterrorism issues. Now a Muslim undercover agent is filing a lawsuit.

By Yassin Musharbash

Police in New York are focused on fighting terror. Some of them, though, think they are fighting all Muslims.

Police in New York are focused on fighting terror. Some of them, though, think they are fighting all Muslims.

The man is a hero in the struggle against Islamic terrorism. He's even got it in writing: The city of New York awarded him a Certificate of Outstanding Duty for his "heroic efforts following the World Trade Center disaster."

But the man -- a police captain -- hasn't been treated like a hero. For more than three years, he has been harassed and insulted by some of his colleagues and superiors at the "Cyber Unit" of the New York Police Department (NYPD). It seems they couldn't believe that an Arab Muslim could fight to defend America's security and combat al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

He and other Muslim police officers were excluded from meetings whenever important information was discussed. "All Arabs are animals," one of his superiors told him. The "Cyber Unit" monitors jihadist Web sites and writes risk analyses based on the online exchanges between terrorism supporters. One day, the officer found an email printout on his desk with the subject line: "Al-Qaida Recruits Through the Internet."

Radical Islam? No such thing…

But the e-mails the police officer received were worse. Over several years, a counterterrorism and intelligence advisor to the NYPD sent thousands of them to hundreds of policemen charged with anti-terrorism tasks. Many of these e-mails were explicitly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

A mail circulated on Oct. 10, 2003 contained the following, for example: "What happens when a Muslim must choose between the Koran (God's word) and loyalty to America? If he's a good Muslim he can't be a good American." On Oct. 1, 2004, the counterterrorism advisor forwarded an article titled "1 in 4 Hold Anti-Muslim Views" by bulk e-mail, adding: "Then 1 in 4 is well informed."

On Nov. 21, 2004, the Muslim police officer read the following: "Radical Islam? There is no such thing… Just Islam."

An e-mail sent on Jan. 1, 2005 featured the statement: "This is not a war against terrorism… it is against ISLAM and we are not winning."

A Jan. 29, 2005 e-mail read: "Someone would have to be blind, stupid, or ignorant to think Islam is a religion (as opposed to a fascist political ideology.)."

An e-mail sent on May 19, 2005 proclaimed that the Koran is a "hostile manifesto of barbaric and fascistic ideology."

And an e-mail sent on June 1, 2005 stated: "Burning the hate-filled Koran should be viewed as a public service at the least."

A culture of discrimination

The e-mail excerpts were forwarded to SPIEGEL ONLINE by Ilann Maazel, the Arab police officer's lawyer. They're part of a federal lawsuit for religious and racial discrimination filed with a United States district court and stamped "Judge Jones" and "Received Dec 05 2006." The police officer has had enough. A press statement released by Maazel says the NYPD's "culture of discrimination" has left the man "depressed and demoralized."

The plaintiff was born in Egypt. He moved to the United States during the early 1980s and became a US citizen in 1990. He studied at university, obtaining a masters degree, then worked with a defense contractor and finally became a police officer. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he helped build the NYPD's "Cyber Unit." He was one of the few police officers with a knowledge of Arabic. The NYPD has touted its Cyber Unit as a model law enforcement project. Maazel says of his plaintiff that he believed he was "living the American dream." Since the plaintiff works undercover, he is refered to only as "John Doe" in the lawsuit.

Until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, no one seemed to be bothered by the fact that "John Doe" was a practicising Muslim, an American and a member of an antiterrorism unit all at once. But then the tide started to turn -- at the very moment when Bruce Tefft appeared on the scene as a counterterrorism and intelligence advisor to the NYPD. Tefft sent the e-mails that prompted "John Doe" to file his lawsuit.

No reaction to complaints

But the lawsuit has been filed against the city of New York. The reason is that "John Doe" says he complained in person to four of his superiors, reading them the e-mails, before complaining in writing. He always kept to the official complaint procedure developed for cases such as his. There was no reaction.

The city of New York takes a different view. Wednesday's edition of the New York Times cites an e-mail from Paul J. Browne, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information. "As soon as the Police Department became aware of a complaint about the content of e-mail sent by an individual not employed by the Police Department, we took immediate action to block his e-mails, followed by a cease and desist letter to the individual and his employer, a consulting firm," the e-mail states. Browne also told the New York Times, that the NYPD's contact with "Orion" (Tefft's employer) ended "sometime in 2003," but that Tefft was somehow able to continue sending e-mails to NYPD officers. Maazel believes the NYPD waited too long before taking action.

"It's incredible in this day and age that hundreds of racist e-mails could be sent to hundreds of NYPD officials over three years, and not one person did a thing to stop it," Maazel told the New York Times.

No reply from Bruce Tefft

But it's not the first time that Bruce Tefft, the former CIA agent who is said to have spent years working for the agency in African countries, is being criticized for his views on Islam.

He already attracted public attention in October of 2004, when he participated in a panel discussion at the University of Toronto on jihad and global terrorism. "Islamic terrorism is based on Islam as revealed through the Qu'ran," he said then, according to the paper Canadian Jewish News. During the discussion, Tefft admitted there might be moderate Muslims but insisted that Islam itself is immoderate. "There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, which is a totalitarian construct," Tefft said. At the time, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights organization, urged the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which had invited Tefft so speak in Toronto, to distance itself from his remarks.

When the case of "John Doe" will reach the courts is still uncertain. Maazel told SPIEGEL ONLINE that "such cases can take years."

SPIEGEL ONLINE contacted Tefft by e-mail on Wednesday morning, but has not yet received a reply.


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